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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHead Of Kay's - Chapter XVI - WHAT HAPPENED TO FENN
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Head Of Kay's - Chapter XVI - WHAT HAPPENED TO FENN Post by :Hugo_San Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :476

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Head Of Kay's - Chapter XVI - WHAT HAPPENED TO FENN

CHAPTER XVI - WHAT HAPPENED TO FENN


Fenn was up first. Many years' experience of being tackled at full
speed on the football field had taught him how to fall. The stranger,
whose football days, if he had ever had any, were long past, had gone
down with a crash, and remained on the pavement, motionless. Fenn was
conscious of an ignoble impulse to fly without stopping to chat about
the matter. Then he was seized with a gruesome fear that he had
injured the man seriously, which vanished when the stranger sat up.
His first words were hardly of the sort that one would listen to from
choice. His first printable expression, which did not escape him until
he had been speaking some time, was in the nature of an official
bulletin.

"You've broken my neck," said he.

Fenn renewed his apologies and explanations.

"Your watch!" cried the man in a high, cracked voice. "Don't stand
there talking about your watch, but help me up. What do I care about
your watch? Why don't you look where you are going to? Now then, now
then, don't hoist me as if I were a hod of bricks. That's right. Now
help me indoors, and go away."

Fenn supported him while he walked lamely into the house. He was
relieved to find that there was nothing more the matter with him than
a shaking and a few bruises.

"Door on the left," said the injured one.

Fenn led him down the passage and into a small sitting-room. The gas
was lit, and as he turned it up he saw that the stranger was a man
well advanced in years. He had grey hair that was almost white. His
face was not a pleasant one. It was a mass of lines and wrinkles from
which a physiognomist would have deduced uncomplimentary conclusions
as to his character. Fenn had little skill in that way, but he felt
that for some reason he disliked the man, whose eyes, which were small
and extraordinarily bright, gave rather an eerie look to his face.

"Go away, go away," he kept repeating savagely from his post on the
shabby sofa on which Fenn had deposited him.

"But are you all right? Can't I get you something?" asked the
Eckletonian.

"Go away, go away," repeated the man.

Conversation on these lines could never be really attractive. Fenn
turned to go. As he closed the door and began to feel his way along
the dark passage, he heard the key turn in the lock behind him. The
man could not, he felt, have been very badly hurt if he were able to
get across the room so quickly. The thought relieved him somewhat.
Nobody likes to have the maiming even of the most complete stranger on
his mind. The sensation of relief lasted possibly three seconds. Then
it flashed upon him that in the excitement of the late interview he
had forgotten his cap. That damaging piece of evidence lay on the
table in the sitting-room, and between him and it was a locked door.

He groped his way back, and knocked. No sound came from the room.

"I say," he cried, "you might let me have my cap. I left it on the
table."

No reply.

Fenn half thought of making a violent assault on the door. He
refrained on reflecting that it would be useless. If he could break it
open--which, in all probability, he could not--there would be trouble
such as he had never come across in his life. He was not sure it would
not be an offence for which he would be rendered liable to fine or
imprisonment. At any rate, it would mean the certain detection of his
visit to the town. So he gave the thing up, resolving to return on the
morrow and reopen negotiations. For the present, what he had to do was
to get safely back to his house. He had lost his watch, his cap with
his name in it was in the hands of an evil old man who evidently bore
him a grudge, and he had to run the gauntlet of three house-masters
and get to bed _via a study-window. Few people, even after the
dullest of plays, have returned from the theatre so disgusted with
everything as did Fenn. Reviewing the situation as he ran with long,
easy strides over the road that led to Kay's, he found it devoid of
any kind of comfort. Unless his mission in quest of the cap should
prove successful, he was in a tight place.

It is just as well that the gift of second sight is accorded to but
few. If Fenn could have known at this point that his adventures were
only beginning, that what had taken place already was but as the
overture to a drama, it is possible that he would have thrown up the
sponge for good and all, entered Kay's by way of the front door--after
knocking up the entire household--and remarked, in answer to his
house-master's excited questions, "Enough! Enough! I am a victim of
Fate, a Toad beneath the Harrow. Sack me tomorrow, if you like, but
for goodness' sake let me get quietly to bed now."

As it was, not being able to "peep with security into futurity," he
imagined that the worst was over.

He began to revise this opinion immediately on turning in at Kay's
gate. He had hardly got half-way down the drive when the front door
opened and two indistinct figures came down the steps. As they did so
his foot slipped off the grass border on which he was running to
deaden the noise of his steps, and grated sharply on the gravel.

"What's that?" said a voice. The speaker was Mr Kay.

"What's what?" replied a second voice which he recognised as Mr
Mulholland's.

"Didn't you hear a noise?"

"'I heard the water lapping on the crag,'" replied Mr Mulholland,
poetically.

"It was over there," persisted Mr Kay. "I am certain I heard
something--positively certain, Mulholland. And after that burglary at
the school house--"

He began to move towards the spot where Fenn lay crouching behind a
bush. Mr Mulholland followed, mildly amused. They were a dozen yards
away when Fenn, debating in his mind whether it would not be
better--as it would certainly be more dignified--for him to rise and
deliver himself up to justice instead of waiting to be discovered
wallowing in the damp grass behind a laurel bush, was aware of
something soft and furry pressing against his knuckles. A soft purring
sound reached his ears.

He knew at once who it was--Thomas Edward, the matron's cat, ever a
staunch friend of his. Many a time had they taken tea together in his
study in happier days. The friendly animal had sought him out in his
hiding-place, and was evidently trying to intimate that the best thing
they could do now would be to make a regular night of it.

Fenn, as I have said, liked and respected Thomas. In ordinary
circumstances he would not have spoken an unfriendly word to him. But
things were desperate now, and needed remedies to match.

Very softly he passed his hand down the delighted animal's back until
he reached his tail. Then, stifling with an effort all the finer
feelings which should have made such an act impossible, he
administered so vigorous a tweak to that appendage that Thomas, with
one frenzied yowl, sprang through the bush past the two masters and
vanished at full speed into the opposite hedge.

"My goodness!" said Mr Kay, starting back.

It was a further shock to Fenn to find how close he was to the laurel.

"'Goodness me,
Why, what was that?
Silent be,
It was the cat,'"

chanted Mr Mulholland, who was in poetical vein after the theatre.

"It was a cat!" gasped Mr Kay.

"So I am disposed to imagine. What lungs! We shall be having the
R.S.P.C.A. down on us if we aren't careful. They must have heard that
noise at the headquarters of the Society, wherever they are. Well, if
your zeal for big game hunting is satisfied, and you don't propose to
follow the vocalist through that hedge, I think I will be off. Good
night. Good piece, wasn't it?"

"Excellent. Good night, Mulholland."

"By the way, I wonder if the man who wrote it is a relation of our
Fenn. It may be his brother--I believe he writes. You probably remember
him when he was here. He was before my time. Talking of Fenn, how do
you find the new arrangement answer? Is Kennedy an improvement?"

"Kennedy," said Mr Kay, "is a well-meaning boy, I think. Quite
well-meaning. But he lacks ability, in my opinion. I have had to speak
to him on several occasions on account of disturbances amongst the
juniors. Once I found two boys actually fighting in the junior
dayroom. I was very much annoyed about it."

"And where was Kennedy while this was going on? Was he holding the
watch?"

"The watch?" said Mr Kay, in a puzzled tone of voice. "Kennedy was
over at the gymnasium when it occurred."

"Then it was hardly his fault that the fight took place."

"My dear Mulholland, if the head of a house is efficient, fights
should be impossible. Even when he is not present, his influence, his
prestige, so to speak, should be sufficient to restrain the boys under
him."

Mr Mulholland whistled softly.

"So that's your idea of what the head of your house should be like, is
it? Well, I know of one fellow who would have been just your man.
Unfortunately, he is never likely to come to school at Eckleton."

"Indeed?" said Mr Kay, with interest. "Who is that? Where did you meet
him? What school is he at?"

"I never said I had met him. I only go by what I have heard of him.
And as far as I know, he is not at any school. He was a gentleman of
the name of Napoleon Bonaparte. He might just have been equal to the
arduous duties which devolve upon the head of your house. Goodnight."

And Fenn heard his footsteps crunch the gravel as he walked away. A
minute later the front door shut, and there was a rattle. Mr Kay had
put the chain up and retired for the night.

Fenn lay where he was for a short while longer. Then he rose, feeling
very stiff and wet, and crept into one of the summer-houses which
stood in Mr Kay's garden. Here he sat for an hour and a half, at the
end of which time, thinking that Mr Kay must be asleep, he started out
to climb into the house.

His study was on the first floor. A high garden-seat stood directly
beneath the window and acted as a convenient ladder. It was easy to
get from this on to the window-ledge. Once there he could open the
window, and the rest would be plain sailing.

Unhappily, there was one flaw in his scheme. He had conceived that
scheme in the expectation that the window would be as he had left it.

But it was not.

During his absence somebody had shot the bolt. And, try his hardest,
he could not move the sash an inch.

Content of CHAPTER XVI - WHAT HAPPENED TO FENN (P G Wodehouse's novel: Head of Kay's)

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